Important Beowulf Characters

Beowulf the main character, has the strength of 30 in each arm, Hygelac’s kinsmen, eventually becomes king of the geats, defeats Grendel and his mother but is killed after defeating a dragon
Shield Sheafson started out as an orphan, became the Danish King, “terror of the hall troops”, book starts with his funeral, father of Beow
Beow son of Sheild, was generous while his father lived so that he could be King next, ruled the Danes for awhile
Halfdane son of Beow and a Swedish princess, “four times a father”
King Hrothgar “current” King of the danes, son of Halfdane, built a glorious Meade Hall, has the Grendel Problem, adopts Beowulf as a son
Halga Halfdane’s daughter, Onela’s queen, “balm in bed”
Onela married to Halga, Swedish King (?)
Grendel a descendant from Cain, an outcast from God, cynical (according to Gardener), destroys the Meade hall and kills people nightly, is killed in a fight with Beowulf in which he loses his arm
Hygelac Beowulf’s uncle, King of the Geats, son of Hrethel, married to Hygd
Ecgtheow Beowulf’s father, great and famous warrior
Heorot the name of the Dane’s Meade Hall
Wulfgar Hrothgar’s herald and officer, a Wendel cheif, renowned for his skill in battle and his wisdom
Unferth son of Ecglaf, dane who challenges Beowulf and lends him his sword, “under a cloud for killing his brothers”. [According to Gardner, he challanges Grendel many times and makes a fool out of himself]
Breca Beowulfs friend who lost the swimming match
Wealtheow Hrothgar’s wife, Queen of the Danes, peaceweaver from the Helmings (?) concerned for her children as heirs after Hrothgar adopts Beowulf
Sigemund a famous hero of Anglo Saxon epic poetry, Scop creates an epic similie between he and Beowulf
Grendel’s mother comes to avenge her son’s death, lives with him in the blood filled mere, is decapitated by Beowulf
Hrunting Unferth’s sword that he lends to Beowulf, doesn’t work
Werguild Sacred obligation for revenge, need to be paid compensation or kill someone on the other side
Wyrd Anglo-Saxon word for fate
Cyning Anglo-Saxon word for king
Thane Anglo-Saxon word for tribesmen and warriors
Comitatus Intensely loyal relationship in which thanes and lords were bound. Thanes fought for the lord in battle and were promised protection, loot and entertainment in return
Scop Minstrels who spread current event news or legends, “shaper of stories”
Caesura A pause that divided Anglo Saxon poetry into two halves of two beats each
Kenning Compound word metaphor that takes the place of a common word (ex. sea= whale-road)
Elegy writing that says that everyone must die eventually
Flyting a boasting/mocking word contest between two warriors
Hrethric Hrothgar’s oldest son,. should inherit the throne but Wealtheow thinks Hrothulf would be a better choice. Beowulf offers to host him in Geatland
Hrothulf Hrothgar’s nephew who will eventually usurp the throne. Contrast to Beowulf being hospitable to Hrethric
Aeschere Hrothgar’s childhood best friend who gets killed by Mama Grendel
Hygd Hygelac’s wife, the queen of the danes. Much better than that bitch Modthryth
Wiglaf your retainer that stands by Beowulf and pretty much kills the dragon for him. Beowulf adopts him as a son (sort of). epitome of comitatus
(King) Hrethel Geat king who took care of Beowulf as his own son
(King) Heremod an evil king who is contrasted to Beowulf, as told by the scop
(Queen) Modthryth a wicked queen that tortured and killed anybody who looked at her the wrong way. contrasted to Hygd
Neagling Beowulf’s sword that snapps in half when he tries to kill the dragon

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